Kelly Nolan on Time Management Solutions
Nolan is an attorney-turned-time management strategist.

If you’ve been struggling to get it all done or feel spread too thin, you’re far from alone. Featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, and Fast Company, Kelly Nolan will share actionable time management strategies to ditch your overwhelm by ditching your to-do lists – and what to do instead to help you manage it all at work and at home with less stress and more clarity.

After experiencing overwhelm as a young patent litigator in Boston, Kelly figured out a time management system to help her show up in the ways that she wanted to at work and at home – without her brain having to somehow magically remember it all. She now empowers other professional working women to manage their personal, family, and career roles with less stress and more calm clarity using realistic time management strategies. Learn more at

It was this weird moment of like relief and empowerment because suddenly I could see, okay, this system is going to alert me when it's time to follow up with this guy. I don't need my brain to magically remember it all.

The Theory.

First to get the clarity and the peace of mind we all crave, we first have to simplify. We have to move away from having our action items scattered all over the place and shift them into one place, maybe two of you keep your work and your personal calendars and life separate. Then we need to make it visual. We've got to take it all out of our heads and stop having to reconcile everything, and bring it together in a realistic time management game plan that will help us reduce the mental load. And finally, we need to plan to stop reacting to whatever comes through the door screaming fire the loudest, and really get intentional with our time, in a realistic way.

Schedule To-Dos. 

There was a day when I was in my Boston law office and I had a row of legal pads next to me and long to-do lists for each matter. I had a swamp of post-it notes by my phone. I had post it notes all over my computer. I had something written on my hand to really not forget to do that thing. And I was in my email inbox, which is a whole other to-do list. And I had to email this guy. And I had to hear back in the next two and a half hours, because we had to move for an extension. But I knew as soon as I hit send, I would get consumed by everything else. And I already felt the stress of" I'm gonna forget to followup with this guy." 

I don't know what made me do it, but I BCC'd myself and in outlook, the email came up and I just dragged it to that little calendar icon in the bottom left hand corner when you're in your email inbox, and let it go. That creates a calendar event with the email in the body. And I wrote "If no word follow up with this guy," and I saved it for like two hours later. 

It was this weird moment of like relief and empowerment because suddenly I could see, okay, this system is going to alert me when it's time to follow up with this guy. I don't need my brain to magically remember it all. And I can see that I'll be at my desk at that time. So that time works. It was the first glimpse I had of how to use this system to show up in my roles in the ways that I want to without my brain being in charge of it all. That's what got me hooked.

Account for Curveballs.

One of the things I hear is people saying "my day has way too many curveballs for this, like, I cannot plan my day out this perfectly, because it's just gonna get blown up." We just need to account for those curveballs. I want you to think about how much of your day on average gets derailed by curveballs or fires or however you think of it, some of you are gonna say, like, I don't know, 30 minutes. Other people are like five hours of my day, every day, other people like two hours. You could block time in your calendar every day, from three to five you blocked in your calendar.  You don't even have to block your availability, you could leave it as like free, and you block you just put it in there as a visual reminder of a curveball. 

Manage your Emails. 

Email is a time management sore spot for a lot of people. But email on average takes the average American worker 2.6 hours a day. And that was from a 2012 study by McKinsey. So it's probably only gotten up here.

There are a lot of people I work with who are like I'm in my email inbox like five hours a day processing email. It kind of goes back to that like curveball analogy. If you have five hours of email every day, that you're not calendaring time to protect and you're filling up your hours with meetings and other things that you want to do, it's no wonder you're feeling behind every day because you have this like ghost three hours of email that you haven't accounted for. 

Now email is something that can lend itself well to nooks and crannies. So I'm not saying you have to calendar, the 2.6 hours or the five hours. But you know, really be honest with yourself. If I deal with 2.6 hours a day, I need to protect at least an hour of time to process email. And I'm not someone who's like only going into your email inbox during that time. That was a very stressful approach for me when I was practicing law. But if you have time protected to process email, then as the email comes in, you can be like fire or can it wait fire or can it wait. And that can be really, really freeing. Same thing with returning phone calls. if you hate returning phone calls like I do, if you corral them all together, at least you can bang them out and get done.


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